The Black Student Union at the University of California, Irvine (UC-Irvine) has started a petition drive demanding the school abolish its “paramilitary” police department.
“Policing as an institution is unethical; it accompanies anti-Black violence,” declares the petition, posted Monday.
The genesis of the petition is rather unusual. It all goes back to March 2015, when UC-Irvine’s student government attempted to ban the American flag from its main lobby, on the grounds that the flag was un-inclusive. After school administrators intervened to block the ban, the petition claims several members of the student government were subjected to harsh interrogations and ordered to produce a public apology. If they refused to do so, they said, school officials said they would not be protected from various threats they claimed they were receiving.
The UC-Irvine Black Student Union argues that administrators were essentially able to make their threats because they could count on police backing, and so therefore the petition makes the dramatic leap to calling for the total abolition of police.
“The police are always already on the other side, ideologically and historically,” the petition says. “Police kill Black women and men in cold blood as it is necessary for societal operation.”
The petition even goes so far as to equate modern police with the Ku Klux Klan of old.
“Following Reconstruction, vigilante groups, such as the KKK, acted as additional paramilitary forces that enacted violence against Black people with the support and participation of white political and communal actors,” it says. “In contemporary times the police and all other paramilitary forces intimidate, imprison, sexually assault, and murder Black people.”
This historical connection, the petition argues, means the mere presence of police “problematizes” the notion that UC-Irvine is a “safe space” for black students.
The petition is very long, going on for close to 3,000 words, and mentions a great many other issues, including Trayvon Martin and the Los Angeles riots, while periodically doubling back to its demand to “Abolish the Police!” It is littered with language derived from critical studies, such as when it asserts that “The need for non-Black persons to ignore, rationalize and normalize anti-Black violence renders it both invisible and hyper-visible.”
As of press time, the petition had only amassed about 180 signatures. At least one signatory, claiming to be UC-Irvine comparative literature lecturer Sharareh Frouzesh, said she “fully support[ed]” the group’s demands.
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